Un­charted: the lost legacy

Sis­ters are doin’ it for them­selves. And for trea­sure

Games Master - - Contents -

Chloe Frazer’s step­ping into Nate’s shoes for this stand­alone spin-off.

Where do we start? The slow-burn­ing and in­tel­li­gent re­la­tion­ship be­tween pro­tag­o­nist Chloe and hired merc Na­dine, or the tow­er­ing stone stat­ues of Hindu gods jut­ting out from the jun­gle canopy? The im­mac­u­late pac­ing, or head­shots with the golden si­lenced pis­tol? You’d better get com­fort­able, be­cause we’ll be here a while. First: yes, The Lost Legacy is an ex­pan­sion done right. And af­ter 2014’s su­perla­tive-de­fy­ing The Last of Us: Left Be­hind, this six(ish)-hour spec­ta­cle fur­ther demon­strates that Sony’s prized first-party stu­dio un­der­stands how to do nar­ra­tive ex­pan­sions better than any­one. The se­cret, it seems, is to nar­row the scope, and drill down into the char­ac­ters. Nat­u­rally, then, pro­tag­o­nist Chloe Frazer and hired gun Na­dine Ross find them­selves at the cen­tre of a more per­sonal and in­ti­mate ad­ven­ture than Un­charted 4 pro­vided. In the wind­ing streets and wild canopies of civil-war-torn In­dia, these two stub­bornly in­de­pen­dent char­ac­ters with muddy al­le­giances search for the Tusk Of Ganesh at a pace closer to real-time than the swash­buck­ling, globe-hop­ping base games dic­tate. And it’s all the better for it – in this ex­tra time and space the char­ac­ters ex­press them­selves on a deeper level, pre­sum­ably glad not to be con­stantly ap­ply­ing for travel visas and book­ing flights like Nate and Sully must.

Off the chart

Famed as the se­ries with the cheeri­est mass mur­derer ever as its pro­tag­o­nist, Un­charted has never been the kind of weighty char­ac­ter study Daniel Day-Lewis and Mark Ry­lance would lick their lips over, but its writ­ing has al­ways served the game as a whole beau­ti­fully. It’s to Naughty Dog’s credit that The Lost Legacy has a slower pace and slightly less quippy tone and still finds ab­so­lute har­mony with the me­chan­ics and ob­jec­tives. It couldn’t do so if Chloe Frazer weren’t such a fan­tas­tic and charis­matic lead – se­ri­ously, some­one give Claudia Black an Os­car. Af­ter, er, first es­tab­lish­ing an Os­car cat­e­gory for videogame work. She’s breezy, ca­pa­ble, and hu­man, tick­ing the very same boxes Nathan Drake does but do­ing so in her own dis­tinct way.

Black and her sup­port­ing cast reach new highs with Naughty Dog’s for­mi­da­ble per­for­mance cap­ture tech, not in fight scenes (although we’d like to give a shout-out to the fi­nal act two-on-one melee brawl) but in nu­anced con­ver­sa­tions with a lit­tle girl at a sari stall in the open­ing scene, with Na­dine through­out, and in­ter­mit­tently with chief ad­ver­sary Asav. And yes, he is a war­lord

with an im­prob­a­bly well-equipped pri­vate army, since you ask. But that’s ac­tu­ally kind of the point: like pre­vi­ous Un-chart­eds, The Lost Legacy is ab­so­lutely spilling over with clichés, the like of which you’d cru­cify a Bren­dan Fraser movie for. Some­how, though, they never grate here. It doesn’t seem to mat­ter that the main plot arc’s broadly the same as it has been since Drake’s For­tune. What mat­ters is that you like the hero, dis­like the vil­lain, and en­joy the ride.

And you do – even if you’re a hard­ened con­trar­ian, you do. But there are fac­tors work­ing to The Lost Legacy’s detri­ment, and they prob­a­bly stem from its ori­gins as a more mod­est DLC of­fer­ing be­fore Naughty Dog, by its own ad­mis­sion, got car­ried away and dreamed up a sub­stan­tial ad­ven­ture. Af­ter leav­ing ur­ban In­dia for the jun­gle, you’re con­fronted with many very recog­nis­able art as­sets from Un­charted 4: the leafy plat­forms, the muddy paths, the an­cient ru­ins, and the 4x4 rides be­tween them all. Again, the tonal dif­fer­en­ti­a­tion from A Thief’s End helps to keep at bay the feel­ing that you’re play­ing a remix of one of the base game’s lev­els, such is the dis­trust­ing and ini­tially grumpy dy­namic be­tween Chloe and Na­dine. But even as that dy­namic be­comes more in­ter­est­ing as the two grow to un­der­stand each other, you’re very aware that you’ve hid­den be­hind these waist-high crates and swung above this jun­gle veg­e­ta­tion be­fore, and quite re­cently.

En­joy the ride

See­ing the same shrubs again can be for­given as a con­ces­sion to the costs of triple-A de­vel­op­ment. The game’s fi­nal set-piece (mi­nor spoil­ers ahead), on the other hand, can’t be shrugged off as eas­ily. Hav­ing dou­ble-crossed, clam­bered, shot, and stolen their way to­wards a de­noue­ment, Chloe and Na­dine find them­selves on – you’ll kick your­self – a train ride. And not just a train ride with a pass­ing re­sem­blance to Un­charted 2’s iconic rail­way bat­tle, but one that plays out al­most iden­ti­cally. Clearly it’s in­tended as a know­ing nod, a bit of an indulgence for long-time fans, but the re­al­ity is that play­ing through it again in such a me­chan­i­cally iden­ti­cal fashion – jump the car­riage, shoot the ve­hi­cles, have a quick fist­fight here and there – doesn’t feel ad­di­tive or nos­tal­gic, it just feels a bit bor­ing, and a flat end­ing to an episode that else­where does such a good job to avoid feel­ing re­pur­posed. Naughty Dog should be held to its own im­pos­si­bly high stan­dards, and this sim­ply doesn’t hit them.

Still, if a game’s big­gest prob­lem is that it features a fac­sim­ile of one of the great­est videogame lev­els of all time, that’s a pretty good prob­lem to have. And on our notepad of oth­er­wise triv­ial griev­ances, it’s the only one worth men­tion­ing. Else­where The Lost Legacy is just a con­stant de­light. The evolv­ing re­la­tion­ship be­tween its two cen­tral char­ac­ters might be the engine that re­ally pow­ers it along, but the tried-and-tested com­bat, in­ven­tive puz­zles, and gi­ant set-pieces cer­tainly help. The big­gest level in Un­charted his­tory awaits you here, and within it are axe-wield­ing me­chan­i­cal stat­ues that might slice you if you step onto the wrong plat­form, moun­tain-scale de­pic­tions of Shiva and Ganesh with con­vo­luted plumb­ing sys­tems, an old-school light-bounc­ing puz­zle with some inim­itable Un­charted im­prov thrown in, and plenty of col­lab­o­ra­tive en­vi­ron­men­tal nav­i­ga­tion.

And we haven’t even be­gun to dis­cuss the clever use of colour through­out ev­ery­thing, or Chloe’s more mar­tial arts-fo­cused style of melee com­bat. Crikey, or the new lock­pick­ing me­chanic. Or a heart-melt­ing mo­ment in­volv­ing an an­i­mal which in­ter­na­tional spoiler laws pro­hibit me from men­tion­ing specif­i­cally. Well we told you we’d be here a while, didn’t we?

“Chloe Frazer is a fan­tas­tic and charis­matic lead – some­one give Claudia Black an Os­car”

Yes, it’s big. Yes, it’s climbable. And yes,

its in­ner work­ings are con­structed from spa­tial puz­zles.

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